Mama Look Up

JPG

After years of struggling with infertility and recurrent pregnancy loss, I’ve been looking for a way to help others in their journey.  I am hoping that I can share my sympathy and compassion for those grieving through this process and the loss of pregnancies.  I decided to share my photography and words of encouragement and support in the form of cards.  My inspiration also comes from the heartache and grief that I experience every Mother’s Day, wishing for acknowledgement of my babies lost and a desire to not feel so alone in my experience of motherhood without my children here with me.  How do you get a Mother’s Day card for someone like me?  Well, I decided to make them so hopefully someone out there who really needs to be seen as a Mother and needs her baby to be remembered on Mother’s Day will get a card and feel less isolated and heartbroken.

I invite you to follow me on my new Instagram account for my Etsy shop (@mamalookup) and to browse through my cards on Etsy, Mama Look Up.  Please also check out the other tab on my blog, “Mama Look Up”.

Advertisements

GIVE VOICE: #GivingTuesday

Giving Tuesday 2015 Banner

The Resolve.org #GivingTuesday topic for October is “Give Voice.”  It’s about sharing our Infertility Story.  For this topic, I’m re-posting a previous blog post titled, The long, long wait.

The long, long, wait

I was first married at the age of 31. I married my high school “sweetheart” after we had been together for about 15 years or so. I remember in those early days of marriage and through most of our married relationship, we’d get a lot of questions about when we would have kids. Sometimes questions were direct, and sometimes they were subtle hints. Sometimes it was not subtle at all. I remember a family camping trip where the in-laws snuck into our tent leaving behind baby shower signs. I thought it was kind of cute and funny at the time, not knowing I would still be childless so many years later. In the beginning, these questions didn’t really bother me. It was definitely on my mind, but following high school, we had both been very driven with our college education and our careers. Once we were ready for marriage, there were travel plans to fulfill before babies. I wasn’t quite yet ready for kids, but I also knew that time was ticking and I didn’t want to end up regretting it later because I had “missed my chance.”   In that dual income, no kids relationship, we were fortunate to travel to South Africa, Zambia, Kenya, Tanzania, New Zealand, Amsterdam, France and Greece. It was truly incredible. I’m thankful for those opportunities and the memories of seeing lions, elephants, zebras and monkeys in the wild, glaciers in New Zealand, and sunsets in Santorini. When I turned 34, the clock was ticking loudly and I thought we better not waste any more time. But here’s where infertility hit without actually being an “infertile couple”. It just takes one person in the relationship to decide that kids were no longer in our future and bam…you can no longer make a baby. And that’s what happened. And during this time, I had my first experiences avoiding the comments…

”When are you going to have a baby?”

“You better not wait too long or you’ll miss your chance”

These questions and comments tore through my heart. I was now facing a decision of staying married with no kids or divorcing with the hope of still having them in the future. It was then, that I started realizing how hurtful these questions can be. I hadn’t even touched the surface of infertility at this point in my life, but this is when I realized, even hinting at parenthood could be a painful topic. I myself had been guilty of asking others these questions without any idea that it could be such a difficult topic.

I went through my 20’s avoiding pregnancy, and there I was in my early 30’s wanting a baby.   But now the person I had married was taking away an irreplaceable dream.   My high school sweetheart turned out not to be so sweet. This was the first time in my life I had to go through the grieving process of not being able to have a baby. By the age of 36, I was going through a divorce. I had no idea if I would marry again, have a baby, or if I would even have issues trying to get pregnant.   I remember thinking, “how could I possibly meet someone, fall in love, get engaged, get married and have a baby while I still actually have good eggs? Who knows how long this could take?”

A year and half went by between my separation, finalized divorce and magical eHarmony wink. And there he was. We went on one date and fell in love. So, that accelerated my imaginary timeline to baby quite a bit. Five months later we were engaged and a year and a half after meeting, we were married.   I was 38 when we got married. Let the baby making commence! Well…not so fast. We determined at the beginning of our relationship that we were one of those 1 in 8 couples. Three months after we were married we had our first round of IVF. In early January of 2013 I found out I was pregnant. Two days before my 39th birthday, I miscarried at 15 weeks. From there our story continued with a second miscarriage of twin girls and now I am moving toward our 8th embryo transfer at the age of 41. I’ve been married twice, yet I’ve never had the chance to try to conceive naturally.

I’m 41 years old and still trying to have a baby. But trying to conceive at 41, brings a lot of blessings in addition to the heartache. At 41, nobody asks anymore, “when are you going to have kids?” Nobody is on our case about having a baby.   Nobody says, “you better hurry up”. Baby showers become a rarity, since all of our friends already had one or two kids years ago. By the time 39 slipped away from me, baby making peer pressure that had previously existed, simply faded away.

Where that’s helpful when faced with infertility, it’s also scary because you start to realize that perhaps there’s no longer a reason for anyone to ask those questions. I worry that people may think we are crazy to try to have a baby so late in life.  Or may not even believe it is possible. While I see other women in their 20’s and 30’s going through the challenges and emotional pain of infertility, I realize in some ways I’m really lucky. When I was in my late 20’s and throughout my 30’s, all of my friends were having babies. But all this was happening at a time when I wasn’t faced with infertility and the pain associated with that journey. I went to a lot of baby showers and played a lot of baby shower games. I bought a lot of baby gifts. I could enjoy walking into a Baby Gap and buying some cute little outfits. I was able to be there with my friends not just for baby #1, but also for baby #2. And I loved all of it. I was able to be emotionally there for them and to watch their joy and feel their joy with them. I was able to be a friend and really care deeply about their move into mommyhood and was able to fall in love with all of their children. I have nieces and nephews that I love dearly, but I’m also an “Auntie” in several other households. I’m known as Aunt Cookie, Crispy, Auntie Chrissykins and Auntie Nasty. My husband even acquired the nickname, Uncle Cupcake this summer. I’ve been able to watch these kids grow up without the cloud of jealousy due to infertility. I didn’t have to back away from being a part of those growing families because I had just had a miscarriage or another failed embryo transfer. Those things didn’t start to happen until after my friends had their babies and for that, I am grateful.

I’m thankful that even though I’m doing this so late, those same friends are there to support me in my struggle. They are there to offer me words of encouragement when I can’t take the emotional pain anymore. They are understanding and allow me to follow my own path. They are compassionate. At this point in life, my good friends have had the life experiences to know what words to say or how to offer sympathy and kindness.  They have the strength to feel my grief with me.

While I never expected to wait so long to have kids of my own, I have had a journey that has changed my life. It has taught me how to survive deep emotional pain and grief and allowed me to support others in their journey as well. Through all the heartache, it has taught me that hope and faith still do exist. I haven’t given up yet. I’m still waiting for my baby…but oh, does it feel like the longest wait ever.

October: Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month

P1150325

I’ve been wanting to participate somehow in “Pregnancy Loss and Awareness Month” on my blog but the reminders of it all are putting me at a loss for words.  Seeing more posts on social media about Pregnancy and Infant Loss is comforting and painful at the same time.

It seems impossible to find the words to express how much I miss and love the babies that I lost during pregnancy.  And for those of you who have experienced it too, you have my deepest sympathy.  We are connected in our grief and our recovery.  We understand each other.  We are not alone.

In loving memory of our baby boy Jaxon, and our twin girls who were not named.  Thank you for the love that you gave me that grows stronger with every beat of my heart.

Photo by CJ

Changing topics today…. Mental Health: It Takes one Person to Change a Mind

P1140248

While I’ve continued to recover from a back injury and put TTC on hold, I’ve been able to focus a bit more attention on another topic that is very meaningful to my family and me. My sister writes a blog, “Out of A Great Need” which shares her compassionate journey as a care taker for a loved one living with a mental illness. While this journey can be filled with so much despair, fear and darkness, my sister’s approach is full of light, hope, education, advocacy, breaking down stigma, support, art, creativity, devotion, mindfulness, love and a “never give up” attitude.   Instead of succumbing to negativity or lack of knowledge that has crossed her path, or our society’s slowly evolving view of mental illness, she routinely rises above and educates others to have a greater understanding of these diseases of the brain.

With Halloween approaching, she recently became aware of several costumes on many, many Halloween and costume websites that sell the following:

Children’s Gone Mental Costume (Some websites have changed the name due to feedback, Spirit Halloween has removed it from inventory due to feedback!)

Adult’s Cell Block Psycho Costume

This is an example of how far behind we are as a society to break down the stigma of mental illness. These costumes make light of a disease. These costumes hurt and discourage those suffering and those who care for them.

Today, she wrote a heartfelt post titled, “Why…Why this?” about why she’s talking to all of these companies to remove these costumes from inventory.  I encourage you to read her post here and below is a quote from today’s post:

When I stumbled across the Gone Mental children’s costume, I was deeply saddened.  This costume (and adult costumes like it) dishonors the dedication of those who provide professional care for our loved ones, it dishonors our families, our friends, it dishonors our children’s suffering and recovery.  It dishonors our children’s lives lost along the way.  It encourages fear, isolation and hopelessness.  It discourages our children from seeking the help they so deserve.

My sister started an effort with these Halloween costumes to make a difference and to break down stigma. She started an effort to fight for those suffering and to honor those lost along the way. And it’s working. Spirit Halloween removed the Gone Mental costume from inventory. I’ve joined in this effort by writing letters to all the companies she has listed in her blog posts and writing on each company’s Facebook pages. I’ve also posted reviews of these costumes directly on some of their websites.  Many mental health advocacy groups have joined her. Other bloggers have joined her. Friends and family have joined her. The author of the book, “The Noonday Demon”, Andrew Solomon is showing his support of her efforts through Facebook and has shared her recent blog post.

She is working hard to educate others to bring awareness to these illnesses and I was touched by her words on another recent blog post, titled, “And Now you Know“:

The more we speak from our hearts…in letters…emails…product reviews…the more we share our truth…the less likely we’ll have to tackle issues such as these mental patient costumes in the future.

Contacting these companies is simply a key to unlocking that “something greater”…not just for ourselves…but for generations to come.

Hopefully, by speaking from our hearts, people will start to listen.  When they shop for Halloween costumes, they might pause…remember…and choose another costume that does not cause such suffering.

And maybe…just maybe…they will also remember our voices when they hear a cruel joke or witness alienation or bullying and say, “That’s enough.  We know better now.”

If this topic peaks your interest, I ask for your continued awareness on this topic. Halloween costumes are one piece of negative stigma toward mental illness. Be aware of these costumes, be aware of people making comments that show lack of understanding or compassion towards those suffering. Be compassionate towards those suffering. If you are struggling, please don’t be afraid to ask for help.

For more information on my sister’s efforts, you can visit this blog post,

https://outofagreatneed.wordpress.com/2015/09/13/stay-the-course/

Photo by CJE

Angel Baby Keepsake

IMG_7003Having gone through the heartbreaking experience of two miscarriages (15 weeks and 9 weeks), I wanted to create something for other women experiencing this type of grief and loss.  The words “Miscarriage” and  “Pregnancy Loss” do not equate to the trauma experienced.   At any stage of pregnancy, we have already become parents.  We have fallen deeply in love with our unborn child.  We have experienced hopes and dreams and ideas about what this baby will be like, how our lives will change, and the future we see for ourselves as a family.  It is a loss that stings so deeply and it is a grief that some may never find peace with.  It is a loss that many people do not talk about, but so many experience.

IMG_7009While first trimester miscarriage is common, there are those that have lost their baby during the second trimester.  There are those trying to pull their lives back together after a stillbirth.  I simply can’t imagine a pain so deep that would accompany these tragic losses.  But those going through this heartache need love, support and acknowledgement of their grief and their baby who’s life was so terribly short.

IMG_7013But what do you say to someone who has experienced the loss of their pregnancy?  The loss of their baby?  For those of us who have had this experience, we are left with a loss that has nothing tangible to hold on to.  We rely on the memory of the feeling of pregnancy and the bond and love that so quickly developed.  There may be ultrasound images that we can save but are now so hard to look at.  If you have not been through this type of loss, you may not know what to say or how to help.  But here are some do’s and don’ts that I have found helpful and that I hear repeated in the community of women that have experienced miscarriage:

  • Please acknowledge our loss.  Don’t pretend like it didn’t happen.
  • We are grieving deeply.  There is no quick recovery.
  • If I’ve named my baby, it feels good to me to hear his name.  To recognize that his life was real, that he is my son, and that I became a mother.
  • It’s ok to acknowledge our loss on Mother’s Day or Father’s Day to let us know you are thinking of us and know that we are heartbroken that our baby is not here.
  • Know that important dates are traumatic:  the planned due date, the anniversary of the loss, the date we found out we were pregnant.
  • Be aware that for those dealing with infertility and experiencing the miracle of pregnancy through medical intervention, the loss is terrifying.  We are not sure if we can ever get pregnant again.
  • Don’t say things like, “It was God’s Will”, or “It was not meant to be”.
  • Do not assume there must have been something wrong with the baby.  (All three of my angel babies were genetically normal).
  • Do not insinuate that the mother and/or father did something wrong or that it was their fault.
  • Recognize that the person grieving may not be able to attend baby showers, or visit a friend or family member who recently had a baby.  Give space without pressure or expectations in these situations.

IMG_7019In order to help those witnessing a loved one who is experiencing grief after the loss of their baby, I’ve created a gift that can be given to the woman or the parents of the unborn child.  If you do not know what to say, this gift will provide the acknowledgement of the loss while also providing something for them to hold on to.  I have created a hand made Angel Baby Keepsake gift box and card.

IMG_7021The outside of the gift box includes an ivory satin ribbon and silver angel charm.  Inside the box, is a card decorated to hold their baby in memory and love.  Included is a poem and pewter heart.  The box can be further customized by the parents to add items such as an ultrasound image or to write notes to the baby or to add little items in memory of him or her.

To order:  Visit my Etsy shop

Card Chic by CJ

Thank You Miss. Conception Coach and the Fertility Conference Bloggers!

missconccoach poster

The “Miss.Conception Coach Fertility Conference” came to an end after 14 days of heartfelt posts and I wanted to say a warm THANK YOU to Miss. Conception Coach and to all the bloggers that participated and to all of you out there reading, liking and responding to the posts!  I really enjoyed being a part of this online conference and making new connections with those of you going through similar struggles.

If you have not yet connected through www.missconceptioncoach.com I highly recommend it!  Through her website you can submit a request for the private Facebook page where you can safely and privately share your story and ask questions about all things infertility, miscarriage, hope, and loss.  It is a place to be supported by others on your bad days and to be a support for others on your good days.

As a recap, here’s a list of all the participant bloggers, in case any of you would like to follow any of these blogs.

Elena, Baby Ridley Bump Blog

Chelsea, Starbucks, Peace and the Pursuit of a Baby

Laura, Making Baby Provence

Halie, Then I Look Up at the Sky

Whitney, Running with PCOS

Jessi, Life Abundant

Caroline, In Due Time

Logan, With Great Expectation

Lindsey, Awaiting Autumn

Lindsey, Energizer 25

Ryanne, Girl Ryanne

Sarah, Ramblings of a Barren Heart

Ally, Uncomfortably Optimistic

Miss.Conception Coach Fertility Conference Day 14 – Guest Post, Meet Ally!

ally

Check out Day 14 (the Final Day) of the Miss.Conception Coach Bloggers Fertility Conference! I am one of the participants in this conference (see Day 6) and I am very excited to get to share a part of my story through such a supportive forum. I hope you will be inspired to follow along as I’m sure you will feel a connection to the stories being shared. This is a journey we do not have to face alone. Check out today’s post by Ally at Uncomfortably Optimistic:

Miss.Conception Coach Fertility Conference Day 14

For more information about “Miss.Conception Coach” and this inspiring online community, please visit:

www.missconceptioncoach.com

Miss.Conception Coach Fertility Conference Day 13 – Guest Post, Meet Sarah!

sarah

Check out Day 13 of the Miss.Conception Coach Bloggers Fertility Conference! I am one of the participants in this conference (see Day 6) and I am very excited to get to share a part of my story through such a supportive forum. I hope you will be inspired to follow along as I’m sure you will feel a connection to the stories being shared. This is a journey we do not have to face alone. Check out today’s post by Sarah at Ramblings of a Barren Heart:

Miss.Conception Coach Fertility Conference Day 13

For more information about “Miss.Conception Coach” and this inspiring online community, please visit:

www.missconceptioncoach.com

Miss.Conception Coach Fertility Conference Day 12 – Guest Post, Meet Ryanne!

ryanne

Check out Day 12 of the Miss.Conception Coach Bloggers Fertility Conference! I am one of the participants in this conference (see Day 6) and I am very excited to get to share a part of my story through such a supportive forum. I hope you will be inspired to follow along as I’m sure you will feel a connection to the stories being shared. This is a journey we do not have to face alone. Check out today’s post by Ryanne at Girl Ryanne:

Miss.Conception Coach Fertility Conference Day 12

For more information about “Miss.Conception Coach” and this inspiring online community, please visit:

www.missconceptioncoach.com

Miss.Conception Coach Fertility Conference Day 11 – Guest Post, Meet Lindsey!

lindsey2

Check out Day 11 of the Miss.Conception Coach Bloggers Fertility Conference! I am one of the participants in this conference (see Day 6) and I am very excited to get to share a part of my story through such a supportive forum. I hope you will be inspired to follow along as I’m sure you will feel a connection to the stories being shared. This is a journey we do not have to face alone. Check out today’s post by Lindsey at Energizer 25:

Miss.Conception Coach Fertility Conference Day 11

For more information about “Miss.Conception Coach” and this inspiring online community, please visit:

www.missconceptioncoach.com